Reading Dance

Reading Dance 
Edited by Robert Gottlieb 
Pantheon

Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz

June 2009 Atlantic

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The subtitle of this 1,300-plus-page doorstop—A Gathering of Memoirs, Reportage, Criticism, Profiles, Interviews, and Some Uncategorizable Extras—fairly summarizes its contents and aptly billboards its appeal. Which is to say that if a loving, deeply inclusive anthology of dance writing, annotated and curated by a literary luminary like Gottlieb (former editor in chief of Knopf, Simon & Schuster, and The New Yorker, as well as a noted dance critic and New York City Ballet associate), sounds like endlessly exciting one-stop shopping, well, it is. Certainly most of the major (and many of the minor) figures of the past two centuries are here: Bournonville, Duncan, Nijinsky, Astaire, Balanchine, Nureyev, Tharp, Baryshnikov—the list goes on and on (and on), with a few mincing surprises (recipes from LeClercq’s The Ballet Cookbook, anyone?) thrown in for good measure. Ultimately, though, the worthiness of such a primer—obviously selective but seemingly exhaustive—is rooted squarely in the reader’s basic interest in the art form. So give Gottlieb credit for not prancing around the obvious: as he notes at the outset, “One man’s ideal anthology is another man’s mess.”

 

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